Vol. 8, Chapter III. The Reformation in Zurich. 1519-1526

10. Zwingli called to Zurich

The fame of Zwingli as a preacher and patriot secured him a call to the position of chief pastor of the Great Minster (Grossmünster), the principal church in Zurich, which was to become the Wittenberg of Switzerland. Many of the Zurichers had heard him preach on their pilgrimages to Einsiedeln. His enemies objected to his love of music and pleasure, and charged him with impurity, adding slander to truth. His friend Myconius, the teacher of the school connected with the church, exerted all his influence in his favor. He was elected by seventeen votes out of twenty-four, Dec. 10, 1518.

He arrived in Zurich on the 27th of the month, and received a hearty welcome. He promised to fulfil his duties faithfully, and to begin with the continuous exposition of the Gospel of Matthew, so as to bring the whole life of Christ before the mind of the people. This was a departure from the custom of following the prescribed Gospel and Epistle lessons, but justified by the example of the ancient Fathers, as Chrysostom and Augustin, who preached on whole books. The Reformed Churches reasserted the freedom of selecting texts; while Luther retained the Catholic system of pericopes.

Zurich, the most flourishing city in German Switzerland, beautifully situated in an amphitheatre of fertile hills, on the lake of the same name and the banks of the Limmat, dates its existence from the middle of the ninth century when King Louis the German founded there the abbey of Frauenmuenster (853). The spot was known in old Roman times as a custom station (Turicum). It became a free imperial city of considerable commerce between Germany and Italy, and was often visited by kings and emperors.

The Great Minster was built in the twelfth century, and passed into the Reformed communion, like the minsters of Basle, Berne, and Lausanne, which are the finest churches in Switzerland.

In the year 1315 Zurich joined the Swiss confederacy by an eternal covenant with Lucerne, Uri, Schwyz, and Unterwalden. This led to a conflict with Austria, which ended favorably for the confederacy.

In the beginning of the sixteenth century Zurich numbered seven thousand inhabitants. It was the centre of the international relations of Switzerland, and the residence of the embassadors of foreign powers which rivalled with each other in securing the support of Swiss soldiers. This fact brought wealth and luxury, and fostered party spirit and the lust of gain and power among the citizens. Bullinger says, “Before the preaching of the gospel [the Reformation], Zurich was in Switzerland what Corinth was in Greece.”


11. Zwingli’s Public Labors and Private Studies

Zwingli began his duties in Zurich on his thirty-sixth birthday (Jan. 1, 1519) by a sermon on the genealogy of Christ, and announced that on the next day (which was a Sunday) he would begin a series of expository discourses on the first Gospel. From Matthew he proceeded to the Acts, the Pauline and Catholic Epistles; so that in four years he completed the homiletical exposition of the whole New Testament except the Apocalypse (which he did not regard as an apostolic book). In the services during the week he preached on the Psalms. He prepared himself carefully from the original text. He probably used for his first course Chrysostom’s famous Homilies on Matthew. With the Greek he was already familiar since his sojourn in Glarus. The Hebrew he learned from a pupil of Reuchlin who had come to Zurich. His copy of Reuchlin’s Rudimenta Hebraica is marked with many notes from his hand.

His sermons, as far as published, are characterized, as Hagenbach says, “by spiritual sobriety and manly solidity.” They are plain, practical, and impressive, and more ethical than doctrinal.

He made it his chief object “to preach Christ from the fountain,” and “to insert the pure Christ into the hearts.” He would preach nothing but what he could prove from the Scriptures, as the only rule of Christian faith and practice. This is a reformatory idea; for the aim of the Reformation was to reopen the fountain of the New Testament to the whole people, and to renew the life of the Church by the power of the primitive gospel. By his method of preaching on entire books he could give his congregation a more complete idea of the life of Christ and the way of salvation than by confining himself to detached sections. He did not at first attack the Roman Church, but only the sins of the human heart; he refuted errors by the statement of truth. His sermons gained him great popularity in Zurich. The people said, “Such preaching was never heard before.” Two prominent citizens, who were disgusted with the insipid legendary discourses of priests and monks, declared after hearing his first sermon, “This is a genuine preacher of the truth, a Moses who will deliver the people from bondage.” They became his constant hearers and devoted friends.

Zwingli was also a devoted pastor, cheerful, kind, hospitable and benevolent. He took great interest in young men, and helped them to an education. He was, as Bullinger says, a fine-looking man, of more than middle size, with a florid complexion, and an agreeable, melodious voice, which, though not strong, went to the heart. We have no portrait from his lifetime; he had no Lucas Kranach near him, like Luther; all his pictures are copies of the large oil painting of Hans Asper in the city library at Zurich, which was made after his death, and is rather hard and wooden.

Zwingli continued his studies in Zurich and enlarged his library, with the help of his friends Glareanus and Beatus Rhenanus, who sent him books from Basle, the Swiss headquarters of literature. He did not neglect his favorite classics, and read, as Bullinger says, Aristotle, Plato, Thucydides, Homer, Horace, Sallust, and Seneca. But his chief attention was now given to the Scriptures and the patristic commentaries.

In the meantime Luther’s reform was shaking the whole Church, and strengthened and deepened his evangelical convictions in a general way, although he had formed them independently. Some of Luther’s books were reprinted in Basle in 1519, and sent to Zwingli by Rhenanus. Lutheran ideas were in the air, and found attentive ears in Switzerland. He could not escape their influence. The eucharistic controversy produced an alienation; but he never lost his great respect for Luther and his extraordinary services to the Church.


12. Zwingli and the Sale of Indulgences

Bernhardin Samson, a Franciscan monk of Milan, crossed the St. Gotthard to Switzerland in August, 1518, as apostolic general commissioner for the sale of indulgences. He is the Tetzel of Switzerland, and equalled him in the audacious profanation of holy things by turning the forgiveness of sins and the release from purgatorial punishment into merchandise. He gave the preference to the rich who were willing to buy letters of indulgence on parchment for a crown. To the poor he sold the same article on common paper for a few coppers. In Berne he absolved the souls of all the departed Bernese of the pains of purgatory. In Bremgarten he excommunicated Dean Bullinger (the father of Henry) for opposing his traffic. But in Zurich he was stopped in his career.

Zwingli had long before been convinced of the error of indulgences by Wyttenbach when he studied in Basle. He had warned the people against Samson at Einsiedeln. He exerted his influence against him in Zurich; and the magistracy, and even the bishop of Constance (who preferred to sell indulgences himself) supported the opposition. Samson was obliged to return to Italy with his “heavy, three-horse wagon of gold.” Rome had learned a lesson of wisdom from Luther’s Theses, and behaved in the case of Samson with more prudence and deference to the sentiment of the enlightened class of Catholics. Leo X., in a brief of April, 1519, expressed his willingness to recall and to punish him if he had transgressed his authority.

The opposition to the sale of indulgences is the opening chapter in the history of the German Reformation, but a mere episode in the Swiss Reformation. That battle had been fought out victoriously by Luther. Zwingli came in no conflict with Rome on this question, and was even approved for his conduct by Dr. Faber, the general vicar of the diocese of Constance, who was then his friend, but became afterwards his enemy.


13. Zwingli during the Pestilence

In the summer of 1519 Zwingli went to the famous bath of Pfaeffers at Ragatz to gather strength for his prospectively onerous duties at Zurich, in view of the danger of the approach of the plague from Basle. As soon as he learned, in August, that the plague had broken out in Zurich, he hastened back without stopping to visit his relations on the way. For several weeks he devoted himself, like a faithful shepherd, day after day, to the care of the sick, until he fell sick himself at the end of September. His life was in great danger, as he had worn himself out. The papal legate sent his own physician to his aid. The pestilence destroyed twenty-five hundred lives; that is, more than one-third of the population of Zurich. Zwingli recovered, but felt the effects on his brain and memory, and a lassitude in all limbs till the end of the year. His friends at home and abroad, including Faber, Pirkheimer, and Duerer at Nürnberg, congratulated him on his recovery.

The experience during this season of public distress and private affliction must have exerted a good influence upon his spiritual life. We may gather this from the three poems, which he composed and set to music soon afterwards, on his sickness and recovery. They consist each of twenty-six rhymed iambic verses, and betray great skill in versification. They breathe a spirit of pious resignation to the will of God, and give us an insight into his religious life at that time. He wrote another poem in 1529, and versified the Sixty-ninth Psalm.


Zwingli’s Poems During the Pestilence, with a Free Condensed Translation


I. Im Anfang Der Krankheit




Hilf, Herr Gott, hilf In dieser Noth; Ich mein’, der Tod Syg an der Thür. Stand, Christe, für; Denn du ihn überwunden hast! Zu dir ich gilf: Ist es din Will, Zuch us den Pfyl, Din Haf bin ich, Mach ganz ald brich. Dann nimmst du hin Den Geiste min Der mich verwundt, Nit lass ein Stund Mich haben weder Rüw noch Rast! Willt du dann glych Todt haben mich Inmitts der Tagen min, So soll es willig syn. Thu, wie Du willt, Mich nüt befilt. Von dieser Erd, Thust du’s, dass er nit böser werd, Ald andern nit Befleck ihr Leben fromm und Sitt.  


II. Mitten in Der Krankheit




Tröst, Herr Gott, tröst! Die Krankheit wachst, Weh und Angst fasst Min Seel und Lyb. Darum dich schybr Gen mir, einiger Trost, mit Gnad! Die gwüss erlöst Bin jeden, der Sin herzlich B’ger Und Hoffnung setzt In dich, verschätzt. Darzu diss Zyt all Nutz und Schad. Nun ist es um; Min Zung ist stumm, Mag sprechen nit ein Wort; Min Sinn’ sind all verdorrt, Darum ist Zyt, Dass Du min Stryt Führist fürhin; So ich nit bin So stark, dass ich Mög tapferlich Thun Widerstand Des Tüfels Facht und frefner Hand. Doch wird min Gmüth Stät bliben dir, wie er auch wüth.  


III. Zur Genesung




G’sund, Herr Gott, g’sund! Ich mein’, ich kehr Schon wiedrum her. Ja, wenn dich dunkt, Der Sünden Funk’ Werd nit mehr bherrschen mich uf Erd, So muss min Mund Din Lob und Lehr Ussprechen mehr Denn vormals je, Wie es auch geh’ Einfältiglich ohn’ alle G’fährd. Wiewohl ich muss Des Todes buss Erliden zwar einmal Villicht mit gröss’rer Qual, Denn jezund wär’ Geschehen, Herr! So ich sunst bin Nach gfahren hin, So will ich doch Den Trutz und Poch In dieser Welt Tragen fröhlich um Widergelt, Mit Hülfe din, Ohn’ den nüt mag vollkommen syn.  


I. In the Beginning of His Sickness




Help me, O Lord, My strength and rock; Lo, at the door I hear death’s knock. Yet, if thy voice, In life’s mid-day Recalls my soul, Then I obey. Uplift thine arm, Once pierced for me, That conquered death, And set me free. In faith and hope, Earth I resign, Secure of heaven, For I am Thine.  


II. In the Midst of His Sickness




My pains increase; Haste to console; For fear and woe Seize body and soul. Death is at hand, My senses fail, My tongue is dumb; Now, Christ, prevail. Lo! Satan strains  To snatch his prey; I feel his grasp; Must I give way? He harms me not, I fear no loss, For here I lie Beneath Thy cross.  


III. On Recovering from His Sickness




My God! my Lord! Healed by Thy hand, Upon the earth Once more I stand. Let sin no more Rule over me; My mouth shall sing Alone of Thee. Though now delayed, My hour will come, Involved, perchance, In deeper gloom. But, let it come; With joy I’ll rise, And bear my yoke Straight to the skies.  



14. The Open Breach. Controversy About Fasts. 1522

Zwingli was permitted to labor in Zurich for two years without serious opposition, although he had not a few enemies, both religious and political. The magistracy of Zurich took at first a neutral position, and ordered the priests of the city and country to preach the Scriptures, and to be silent about human inventions (1520). This is the first instance of an episcopal interference of the civil authority in matters of religion. It afterwards became a settled custom in Protestant Switzerland with the full consent of Zwingli. He was appointed canon of the Grossmuenster, April 29, 1521, with an additional salary of seventy guilders, after he had given up the papal pension. With this moderate income he was contented for the rest of his life.

During Lent, 1522, Zwingli preached a sermon in which he showed that the prohibition of meat in Lent had no foundation in Scripture. Several of his friends, including his publisher, Froschauer, made practical use of their liberty.

This brought on an open rupture. The bishop of Constance sent a strong deputation to Zurich, and urged the observance of the customary fasts. The magistracy prohibited the violation, and threatened to punish the offenders (April 9, 1522). Zwingli defended himself in a tract on the free use of meats (April 16). It is his first printed book. He essentially takes the position of Paul, that, in things indifferent, Christians have liberty to use or to abstain, and that the Church authorities have no right to forbid this liberty. He appeals to such passages as 1Co_8:8; 1Co_10:25; Col_2:16; 1Ti_4:1; Rom_14:1-3; Rom_15:1, Rom_15:2.

The bishop of Constance issued a mandate to the civil authorities (May 24), exhorting them to protect the ordinances of the Holy Church. He admonished the canons, without naming Zwingli, to prevent the spread of heretical doctrines. He also sought and obtained the aid of the Swiss Diet, then sitting at Lucerne.

Zwingli was in a dangerous position. He was repeatedly threatened with assassination. But he kept his courage, and felt sure of ultimate victory. He replied in the Archeteles (“the Beginning and the End”), hoping that this first answer would be the last. He protested that he had done no wrong, but endeavored to lead men to God and to his Son Jesus Christ in plain language, such as the common people could understand. He warned the hierarchy of the approaching collapse of the Romish ceremonies, and advised them to follow the example of Julius Caesar, who folded his garments around him that he might fall with dignity. The significance of this book consists in the strong statement of the authority of the Scriptures against the authority of the Church. Erasmus was much displeased with it.


15. Petition for the Abolition of Clerical Celibacy. Zwingli’s Marriage

In July of the same year (1522), Zwingli, with ten other priests, sent a Latin petition to the bishop, and a German petition to the Swiss Diet, to permit the free preaching of the gospel and the marriage of the clergy as the only remedy against the evils of enforced celibacy. He quotes the Scriptures for the divine institution and right of marriage, and begs the confederates to permit what God himself has sanctioned. He sent both petitions to Myconius in Lucerne for signatures. Some priests approved, but were afraid to sign; others said the petition was useless, and could only be granted by the pope or a council.

The petition was not granted. Several priests openly disobeyed. One married even a nun of the convent of Oetenbach (1523); Reubli of Wyticon married, April 28, 1523; Leo Judae, Sept. 19, 1523.

Zwingli himself entered into the marriage relation in 1522, but from prudential reasons he did not make it public till April 5, 1524 (more than a year before Luther’s marriage, which took place June 13, 1525). Such cases of secret marriage were not unfrequent; but it would have been better for his fame if, as a minister and reformer, he had exercised self-restraint till public opinion was ripe for the change.

His wife, Anna Reinhart, was the widow of Hans Meyer von Knonau, the mother of three children, and lived near Zwingli. She was two years older than he. His enemies spread the report that he married for beauty and wealth; but she possessed only four hundred guilders besides her wardrobe and jewelry. She ceased to wear her jewelry after marrying the Reformer.

We have only one letter of Zwingli to his wife, written from Berne, Jan. 11, 1528, in which he addresses her as his dearest house-wife. From occasional expressions of respect and affection for his wife, and from salutations of friends to her, we must infer that his family life was happy; but it lacked the poetic charm of Luther’s home. She was a useful helpmate in his work. She contributed her share towards the creation of pastoral family life, with its innumerable happy homes.

In Zwingli’s beautiful copy of the Greek Bible (from the press of Aldus in Venice, 1518), which is still preserved and called “Zwingli’s Bible,” he entered with his own hand a domestic chronicle, which records the names, birthdays, and sponsors of his four children, as follows: “Regula Zwingli, born July 13, 1524; Wilhelm Zwingli, born January 29, 1526; Huldreich Zwingli, born Jan. 6, 1528; Anna Zwingli, born May 4, 1530.” His last male descendant was his grandson, Ulrich, professor of theology, born 1556, died 1601. The last female descendant was his great-granddaughter, Anna Zwingli, who presented his MS. copy of the Greek Epistles of Paul to the city library of Zurich in 1634.

Zwingli lived in great simplicity, and left no property. His little study (the “Zwingli-Stuebli”), in the official dwelling of the deacon of the Great Minster, is carefully preserved in its original condition.


16. Zwingli and Lambert of Avignon

In July, 1522, there appeared in Zurich a Franciscan monk, Lambert of Avignon, in his monastic dress, riding on a donkey. He had left his convent in the south of France, and was in search of evangelical religion. Haller of Berne recommended him to Zwingli. Lambert preached some Latin sermons against the abuses of the Roman Church, but still advocated the worship of saints and of the Virgin Mary. Zwingli interrupted him with the remark, “You err,” and convinced him of his error in a disputation.

The Franciscan thanked God and proceeded to Wittenberg, where Luther received him kindly. At the Synod of Homberg (1526) he advocated a scheme of Presbyterian church government, and at the conference at Marburg he professed to be converted to Zwingli’s view of the Lord’s Supper.


17. The Sixty-seven Conclusions

On the Sixty-seven Conclusions and the Three Disputations see Zwingli: Werke, I. A. 105 sqq.; Bullinger: I. 97 sqq.; Egli: 111, 114, 173 sqq.; Moerikofer: I. 138 sqq., 191 sqq. The text of the Sixty-seven Articles in Swiss-German, Werke, I. A. 153-157; in modern German and Latin, in Schaff: Creeds of Christendom, III. 197-207.

Zwingli’s views, in connection with the Lutheran Reformation in Germany, created a great commotion, not only in the city and canton of Zurich, but in all Switzerland. At his suggestion, the government — that is, the burgomaster and the small and large Council (called The Two Hundred) — ordered a public disputation which should settle the controversy on the sole basis of the Scriptures.

For this purpose Zwingli published Sixty-seven Articles or Conclusions (Schlussreden). They are the first public statement of the Reformed faith, but they never attained symbolical authority, and were superseded by maturer confessions. They resemble the Ninety-five Theses of Luther against indulgences, which six years before had opened the drama of the German Reformation; but they mark a great advance in Protestant sentiment, and cover a larger number of topics. They are full of Christ as the only Saviour and Mediator, and clearly teach the supremacy of the Word of God as the only rule of faith; they reject and attack the primacy of the Pope, the Mass, the invocation of saints, the meritoriousness of human works, the fasts, pilgrimages, celibacy, purgatory, etc., as unscriptural commandments of men.

The following are the most important of these theses: — 

1. All who say that the gospel is nothing without the approbation of the Church, err and cast reproach upon God.

2. The sum of the gospel is that our Lord Jesus Christ, the true Son of God, has made known to us the will of his heavenly Father, and redeemed us by his innocence from eternal death, and reconciled us to God.

3. Therefore Christ is the only way to salvation to all who were, who are, who shall be.

4. Whosoever seeks or shows another door, errs — yea, is a murderer of souls and a robber.

7. Christ is the head of all believers who are his body; but without him the body is dead.

8. All who live in this Head are his members and children of God. And this is the Church, the communion of saints, the bride of Christ, the Ecclesia catholica.

15. Who believes the gospel shall be saved; who believes not, shall be damned. For in the gospel the whole truth is clearly contained.

16. From the gospel we learn that the doctrines and traditions of men are of no use to salvation.

17. Christ is the one eternal high-priest. Those who pretend to be highpriests resist, yea, set aside, the honor and dignity of Christ.

18. Christ, who offered himself once on the cross, is the sufficient and perpetual sacrifice for the sins of all believers. Therefore the mass is no sacrifice, but a commemoration of the one sacrifice of the cross, and a seal of the redemption through Christ.

19. Christ is the only Mediator between God and us.

22. Christ is our righteousness. From this it follows that our works are good so far as they are Christ’s, but not good so far as they are our own.

24. Christians are not bound to any works which Christ has not commanded. They may eat at all times all kinds of food.

26. Nothing is more displeasing to God than hypocrisy.

27. All Christians are brethren.

28. Whatsoever God permits and has not forbidden, is right. Therefore marriage is becoming to all men.

34. The spiritual [hierarchical] power, so called, has no foundation in the Holy Scriptures and the teaching of Christ.

35. But the secular power [of the state] is confirmed by the teaching and example of Christ.

37, 38. All Christians owe obedience to the magistracy, provided it does not command what is against God.

49. I know of no greater scandal than the prohibition of lawful marriage to priests, while they are permitted for money to have concubines. Shame!

50. God alone forgives sins, through Jesus Christ our Lord alone.

57. The Holy Scripture knows nothing of a purgatory after this life.

58, 59. God alone knows the condition of the departed, and the less he has made known to us, the less we should pretend to know.

66. All spiritual superiors should repent without delay, and set up the cross of Christ alone, or they will perish. The axe is laid at the root.


18. The Public Disputations. 1523


The first disputation was held in the city hall on Thursday, Jan. 29, 1523, in the German language, before about six hundred persons, including all the clergy and members of the small and large Councils of Zurich. St. Gall was represented by Vadian; Berne, by Sebastian Meyer; Schaffhausen, by Sebastian Hofmeister. Oecolampadius from Basle expected no good from disputations, and declined to come. He agreed with Melanchthon’s opinion about the Leipzig disputation of Eck with Carlstadt and Luther. Nevertheless, he attended, three years afterwards, the Disputation at Baden. The bishop of Constance sent his general vicar, Dr. Faber, hitherto a friend of Zwingli, and a man of respect, able learning and an able debater, with three others as counsellors and judges. Faber declined to enter into a detailed discussion of theological questions which, he thought, belong to the tribunal of Councils or of renowned universities, as Paris, Cologne and Louvain. Zwingli answered his objections, and convinced the audience.

On the same day the magistracy passed judgment in favor of Zwingli, and directed him “to continue to preach the holy gospel as heretofore, and to proclaim the true, divine Scriptures until he was better informed.” All other preachers and pastors in the city and country were warned “not to preach anything which they could not establish by the holy Gospel and other divine Scriptures,” and to avoid personal controversy and bitter names.

Zwingli prepared a lengthy and able defence of his Articles against the charges of Faber, July, 1523.

The disputation soon produced its natural effects. Ministers took regular wives; the nunnery of Oetenbach was emptied; baptism was administered in the vernacular, and without exorcism; the mass and worship of images were neglected and despised. A band of citizens, under the lead of a shoemaker, Klaus Hottinger, overthrew the great wooden crucifix in Stadelhofen, near the city, and committed other lawless acts.

Zwingli was radical in his opposition to idolatrous and superstitious ceremonies, but disapproved disorderly methods, and wished the magistracy to authorize the necessary changes.

Consequently, a second disputation was arranged for October 26, 1523, to settle the question of images and of the mass. All the ministers of the city and canton were ordered to attend; the twelve other cantons, the bishops of Constance, Coire and Basle, and the University of Basle were urgently requested to send learned delegates. The bishop of Constance replied (Oct. 16) that he must obey the Pope and the Emperor, and advised the magistracy to wait for a general council. The bishop of Basle excused himself on account of age and sickness, but likewise referred to a council and warned against separation. The bishop of Coire made no answer. Most of the cantons declined to send delegates, except Schaffhausen and St. Gall. Unterwalden honestly replied that they had no learned men among them, but pious priests who faithfully adhered to the old faith of Christendom, which they preferred to, all innovations.

The second disputation was held in the city hall, and lasted three days. There were present about nine hundred persons, including three hundred and fifty clergymen and ten doctors. Dr. Vadian of St. Gall, Dr. Hofmeister of Schaffhausen, and Dr. Schappeler of St. Gall presided. Zwingli and Leo Judae defended the Protestant cause, and had the advantage of superior Scripture learning and argument. The Roman party betrayed much ignorance; but Martin Steinli of Schaffhausen ably advocated the mass. Konrad Schmid of Kuessnacht took a moderate position, and produced great effect upon the audience by his eloquence. His judgment was, first to take the idolatry out of the heart before abolishing the outward images, and to leave the staff to the weak until they are able to walk without it and to rely solely on Christ.

The Council was not prepared to order the immediate abolition of the mass and the images. It punished Hottinger and other “idol-stormers” by banishment, and appointed a commission of ministers and laymen, including Zwingli, Schmidt and Judae, who should enlighten the people on the subject by preaching and writing. Zwingli prepared his “Short and Christian Introduction,” which was sent by the Council of Two Hundred to all the ministers of the canton, the bishops of Constance, Basle, and Coire, the University of Basle, and to the twelve other cantons (Nov. 17, 1523). It may be compared to the instruction of Melanchthon for the visitation of the churches of Saxony (1528).

A third disputation, of a more private character, was held Jan. 20, 1524. The advocates of the mass were refuted and ordered not to resist any longer the decisions of the magistracy, though they might adhere to their faith.

During the last disputation, Zwingli preached a sermon on the corrupt state of the clergy, which he published by request in March, 1524, under the title “The Shepherd.” He represents Christ as the good Shepherd in contrast with the selfish hirelings, according to the parable in the tenth chapter of the Gospel of John. Among the false shepherds he counts the bishops who do not preach at all; those priests who teach their own dreams instead of the Word of God; those who preach the Word but for the glorification of popery; those who deny their preaching by their conduct; those who preach for filthy lucre; and, finally, all who mislead men away from the Creator to the creature. Zwingli treats the papists as refined idolaters, and repeatedly denounces idolatry as the root of the errors and abuses of the Church.

During the summer of 1524 the answers of the bishops and the Diet appeared, both in opposition to any innovations. The bishop of Constance, in a letter to Zurich, said that he had consulted several universities; that the mass and the images were sufficiently warranted by the Scriptures, and had always been in use. The canton appointed a commission of clergymen and laymen to answer the episcopal document. The Swiss Diet, by a deputation, March 21, 1524, expressed regret that Zurich sympathized with the new, unchristian Lutheran religion, and prayed the canton to remain faithful to old treaties and customs, in which case the confederates would cheerfully aid in rooting out real abuses, such as the shameful trade in benefices, the selling of indulgences, and the scandalous lives of the clergy.

Thus forsaken by the highest ecclesiastical and civil authorities, the canton of Zurich acted on its own responsibility, and carried out the contemplated reforms.

The three disputations mark an advance beyond the usual academic disputations in the Latin language. They were held before laymen as well as clergymen, and in the vernacular. They brought religious questions before the tribunal of the people according to the genius of republican institutions. They had, therefore, more practical effect than the disputation at Leipzig. The German Reformation was decided by the will of the princes; the Swiss Reformation, by the will of the people: but in both cases there was a sympathy between the rulers and the majority of the population.


19. The Abolition of the Roman Worship. 1524

Bullinger, I. 173 sqq. Fuessli, I. 142 sqq. Egli, 234 sqq.

By these preparatory measures, public opinion was prepared for the practical application of the new ideas. The old order of worship had to be abolished before the new order could be introduced. The destruction was radical, but orderly. It was effected by the co-operation of the preachers and the civil magistracy, with the consent of the people. It began at Pentecost, and was completed June 20, 1524.

In the presence of a deputation from the authorities of Church and State, accompanied by architects, masons and carpenters, the churches of the city were purged of pictures, relics, crucifixes, altars, candles, and all ornaments, the frescoes effaced, and the walls whitewashed, so that nothing remained but the bare building to be filled by a worshiping congregation. The pictures were broken and burnt, some given to those who had a claim, a few preserved as antiquities. The bones of the saints were buried. Even the organs were removed, and the Latin singing of the choir abolished, but fortunately afterwards replaced by congregational singing of psalms and hymns in the vernacular (in Basle as early as 1526, in St. Gall 1527, in Zurich in 1598). “Within thirteen days,” says Bullinger, “all the churches of the city were cleared; costly works of painting and sculpture, especially a beautiful table in the Waterchurch, were destroyed. The superstitious lamented; but the true believers rejoiced in it as a great and joyous worship of God.”

In the following year the magistracy melted, sold, or gave away the rich treasures of the Great Minster and the Frauenminster, — chalices, crucifixes, and crosses of gold and silver, precious relics, clerical robes, tapestry, and other ornaments. In 1533 not a copper’s worth was left in the sacristy of the Great Minster. Zwingli justified this vandalism by the practice of a conquering army to spike the guns and to destroy the forts and provisions of the enemy, lest he might be tempted to return.

The same work of destruction took place in the village churches in a less orderly way. Nothing was left but the bare buildings, empty, cold and forbidding.

The Swiss Reformers proceeded on a strict construction of the second commandment as understood by Jews and Moslems. They regarded all kinds of worship paid to images and relics as a species of idolatry. They opposed chiefly the paganism of popery; while Luther attacked its legalistic Judaism, and allowed the pictures to remain as works of art and helps to devotion. For the classical literature of Greece and Rome, however, Zwingli had more respect than Luther. It should be remarked also that he was not opposed to images as such any more than to poetry and music, but only to their idolatrous use in churches. In his reply to Valentin Compar of Uri (1525), he says, “The controversy is not about images which do not offend the faith and the honor of God, but about idols to which divine honors are paid. Where there is no danger of idolatry, the images may remain; but idols should not be tolerated. All the papists tell us that images are the books for the unlearned. But where has God commanded us to learn from such books?” He thought that the absence of images in churches would tend to increase the hunger for the Word of God.

The Swiss iconoclasm passed into the Reformed Churches of France, Holland, Scotland, and North America. In recent times a reaction has taken place, not in favor of image worship, which is dead and gone, but in favor of Christian art; and more respect is paid to the decency and beauty of the house of God and the comfort of worshipers.


20. The Reformed Celebration of the Lord’s Supper

Zwingli, Werke, II. B. 233. Bullinger, I. 263. Fuessli, IV. 64.

The mass was gone. The preaching of the gospel and the celebration of the Lord’s Supper by the whole congregation, in connection with a kind of Agape, took its place.

The first celebration of the communion after the Reformed usage was held in the Holy Week of April, 1525, in the Great Minster. There were three services, — first for the youth on Maundy-Thursday, then for the middle-aged on Good Friday, and last for the old people on Easter. The celebration was plain, sober, solemn. The communicants were seated around long tables, which took the place of the altar, the men on the right, the women on the left. They listened reverently to the prayers, the words of institution, the Scripture lessons, taken from the 1Co_11:1-34 and the mysterious discourse in the sixth chapter of John on the spiritual eating and drinking of Christ’s flesh and blood, and to an earnest exhortation of the minister. They then received in a kneeling posture the sacred emblems in wooden plates and wooden cups. The whole service was a commemoration of Christ’s atoning death and a spiritual communion with him, according to the theory of Zwingli.

In the liturgical part he retained more from the Catholic service than we might expect; namely, the Introit, the Gloria in Excelsis, the Creed, and several responses; but all were translated from Latin into the Swiss dialect, and with curious modifications. Thus the Gloria in Excelsis, the Creed, and the Psa_103:1-22 were said alternately by the men and the women, instead of the minister and the deacon, as in the Catholic service, or the minister and the congregation, as in the Lutheran and Episcopal services. In most of the Reformed churches (except the Anglican) the responses passed out of use, and the kneeling posture in receiving the communion gave way to the standing or sitting posture.

The communion service was to be held four times in the year, — at Easter, Whitsunday, autumn, and Christmas. It was preceded by preparatory devotions, and made a season of special solemnity. The mass was prohibited at first only in the city, afterwards also in the country.

Zwingli furnished also in 1525 an abridged baptismal service in the vernacular language, omitting the formula of exorcism and all those elements for which he found no Scripture warrant.

The Zwinglian and Calvinistic worship depends for its effect too much upon the intellectual and spiritual power of the minister, who can make it either very solemn and impressive, or very cold and barren. The Anglican Church has the advantage of an admirable liturgy.


21. Other Changes. A Theological School. The Carolinum. A System of Theology

Illustration, Zürich

Zürich in the Sixteenth Century.

Other changes completed the Reformation. The Corpus Christi festival was abolished, and the Christian year reduced to the observance of Christmas, Good Friday, Easter, and Pentecost. Processions and pilgrimages ceased. The property of convents was confiscated and devoted to schools and hospitals. The matrimonial legislation was reconstructed, and the care of the poor organized. In 1528 a synod assembled for the first time, to which each congregation sent its minister and two lay delegates.

A theological college, called Carolinum, was established from the funds of the Great Minster, and opened June 19, 1525. It consisted of the collegium humanitatis, for the study of the ancient languages, philosophy and mathematics, and the Carolinum proper, for the study of the Holy Scriptures, which were explained in daily lectures, and popularized by the pastors for the benefit of the congregation. This was called prophesying (1Co_14:1). Zwingli wrote a tract on Christian education (1526). He organized this school of the prophets, and explained in it several books of the Old Testament, according to the Septuagint. He recommended eminent scholars to professorships. Among the earliest teachers were Ceporin, Pellican, Myconius, Collin, Megander, and Bibliander. To Zwingli Zurich owes its theological and literary reputation. The Carolinum secured an educated ministry, and occupied an influential position in the development of theological science and literature till the nineteenth century, when it was superseded by the organization of a full university.

Zwingli wrote in the course of three months and a half an important work on the true, evangelical, as opposed to the false, popish faith, and dedicated it to Francis I., king of France, in the vain hope of gaining him to the cause of the Reformation. It completes his theological opposition to the papacy. It is the first systematic exposition of the Reformed faith, as Melanchthon’s Loci was the first system of Lutheran theology; but it was afterwards eclipsed by Calvin’s Institutes, which were addressed to the same king with no better effect. Francis probably never read either; but the dedication remains as a connecting link between the Swiss and the French Reformation. The latter is a child of the former.